A tense, bitter stalemate has taken shape in Lebanon over the fate of the Energy Ministry portfolio in the next Cabinet, thanks to the Free Patriotic Movement’s stubborn insistence that the job represents a “guarantee for Christians.”
The FPM’s rhetoric over the matter has blazed new ground in terms of its divorce from reality. The controversy has nothing to do with safeguarding a given minister’s “achievements” or protecting religious minorities, but is merely the latest round of jousting in the run-up to a presidential election in May.
FPM leader Michel Aoun is anxious because his March 8 allies have yet to endorse him as their candidate – the solution, for him, is to ratchet up tension on side issues such as portfolios, and to hell with the consequences.
The problem with the stale arguments being used in this battle is that they don’t have a long shelf-life. Aoun’s allies have tired of his antics, and are probably offended by his blatantly sectarian grandstanding, along the lines of only he can protect Lebanon’s poor Christians.
Aoun and his team should re-think their stances, based on several things. First, portfolios have never been reserved ad infinitum for a single sect or party. Second, Lebanese Christians aren’t protected by certain ministerial portfolios, but rather by a commitment to coexistence, equality, justice and the Constitution. Third, the most divisive group in Lebanon, replete with its own schisms and dismissive attitude to other Christians, has no business talking about being a mediator between other sects.
The sooner that the FPM realizes that stubbornness and sectarian scare tactics have led it nowhere, the better.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 28, 2014, on page 7.